Bill to Promote Safe Drug and Needle Disposal Practices Clears Legislature, Heads to Governor’s Desk

A bill designed to be a part of New Jersey’s ongoing, integrated approach to preventing and fighting drug addiction cleared the Legislature Monday by a full Assembly vote of 75-0-0.

The bill (S-3240) known as “Charlie’s Law,” would require pharmacy practice sites and hospice programs to provide patients with information and products to safely dispose of unused drugs and medications. The measure, sponsored by Assembly Democrats John Armato, Raj Mukherji, Carol Murphy and Clinton Calabrese would also require patients be given the opportunity to receive, or purchase, a nontoxic composition that could be used to safely dispose of unused, unwanted and expired drugs and medications. The bill is named in honor of “Charlie,” a New Jersey man who battled addiction for several years before ultimately succumbing to the disease at age 34 in 2013.

“The overall premise of this bill is keeping discarded drugs out of the wrong hands,” said Armato (D-Atlantic). “Be it the hands of children or those struggling to avoid temptation, this bill will inform patients on ways to help prevent this from happening.”

The bill calls for pharmacy practice sites, excluding long-term care pharmacies, to give patients written materials containing the following information when dispensing a prescription drug, medication considered a controlled dangerous substance, or any other drug designated by the Commissioner of Health:

· Unused, unwanted, or expired drugs and medications that are not properly, safely, and promptly disposed of risk being stolen, diverted, abused, misused or accidently ingested and such risk pose a threat to the patient and their families, especially children.

· Drugs and medications disposed in household trash or flushed down drains can leak into the ecosystem and harm the environment.

· Patients can receive, or purchase, a nontoxic composition that can be used to permanently sequester or deactivate unused, unwanted, or expired drugs and medications in order to safely dispose them.

“The vicious cycle of addiction can be sparked by the simple act of a child coming into the possession of discarded drugs,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “That act can lead to a long, painful road of destruction, which this bill’s safeguards could prevent.”

“This bill also has the wellbeing of our environment in mind,” said Murphy
(D-Burlington). “Improperly disposed of prescription drugs and medications can leak into the ecosystem and potentially harm the environment. This is especially true when they are discarded in household trash or flushed down a drain.”

The noted requirements also would apply to hospice care programs during the time patients are enrolled, or when a change is made to a patient’s prescribed drugs or medications.

The measure also includes a provision whereby the Division of Consumer Affairs would prepare written materials, for distribution to hospice care and pharmacy practice cite patients, explaining ways to safely dispose of used hypodermic syringes and needles to prevent the potential transmission of blood borne pathogens. Such transmission can occur when used hypodermic syringes and needles are reused or result in accidental injury.

“We can’t leave any stone unturned in our fight against drug addiction,” said Calabrese (D-Bergen, Passaic). “Any step we can take to keep unused prescription drugs and medications from those for whom they were not intended is a step in the right direction.”

The bill was introduced last May and cleared the Senate 38-0 on January 31. It would become effective 90 days after enactment. It now heads to the governor’s desk for further consideration.